- Created on 24 October 2013
Recent polls back the conventional political wisdom that the GOP badly overplayed its hand in manufacturing the debt ceiling crisis and the partial government shutdown crisis. And that it's a spent party. In a CNN poll the overwhelming majority of respondents not only ripped the GOP for the shutdown but said that GOP congressional representatives should be defeated for reelection.
House Republicans apparently didn't bother to read the polls. They wasted no time in coming up with their eternal ploys to hammer the Affordable Health Care Act and by extension President Obama. In quick succession not one, not two, but three GOP dominated House committees announced with much public fanfare that they will be "investigating" the snags, glitches, and public complaints that have dogged the roll-out of the health care plan. Since the GOP has done everything it could to kill the plan, this can hardly be considered an honest effort to iron out the kinks and aid the public in gaining information on and facilitate access to the coverage available.
The announcement of the hearings came quickly on the heels of their even more pointed attack on the health plan and Obama. This came when Wisconsin House Rep. Paul Ryan demanded that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resign. She's a convenient and visible whipping person for the GOP assault. The Sebelius hit is simply a work over of the well-worn GOP tact of targeting an Obama official and then spending endless hours digging up and tossing every scintilla of manufactured political dirt, muck and grime it can find on the official. Attorney General Eric Holder, former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, have been the more prominent and visible targets.
The GOP's continuing withering attack on the Affordable Care Act though, is only one sign that it's way too soon to pull out the life support machine for the party for the 2014 midterm elections and beyond. It controls the House, still has sufficient numbers in the Senate to dither, delay and obstruct Obama's judicial appointments, implementation of health care reforms, tax and budget proposals, and regulatory reforms that still need bipartisan cooperation to pass.
The Supreme Court still has a five vote conservative majority and will decide a number of crucial cases on affirmative action, criminal justice, civil liberties and corporate liability issues. These cases will have a profound impact on law and public policy.
The GOP holds the majority of governorships and state houses nationally. They are major players when it comes to implementing the array of federal spending programs. This is especially vital in implementing health care reform. Some GOP governors have already played hard ball and said that they will not set up health provider exchanges and challenge the White House to do it. They also noisily announced that they will sharply pare back Medicaid allegedly because of unsustainable costs.
The GOP's special interest group tent includes major corporations, Christian evangelicals, and conservative rural voters. But it's the money train that's especially worrisome. The Supreme Court partially greased the wheels of major campaign donors in the 2010 Citizens United decision that partially opened the floodgates for king's ransom sums to flow to PACs and other independent expenditure GOP front groups. The court is now likely to go even further when it rules on the case brought by conservative Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon which seeks to completely knock out the 70-year-old prohibition that has largely put clamps on the amounts that individuals may contribute to political candidates, political-party committees, and non-party political committees all of course for the purpose of influencing national election campaigns. There's little doubt who an adverse court ruling will help most. McCutcheon left no doubt where his dollars have gone and will continue to go, "This case is about freedom of speech. It's about my right to make contributions to the candidates I choose."
Then there is the poll that purportedly shows the GOP allegedly on the rocks. It also ominously found that more than half said that Democratic incumbents should also be dumped from Congress. A significant number also said that they thought the Democrats like the Republicans were to extreme. This along with the GOP's congressional power base, its Tea Party core constituency, its big money donors and most importantly the penchant for collective memory loss on the part of many voters with the passage of time are still formidable trump cards for the party.
The GOP did not rattle its saber on Sebelius solely to grab a headline. It's relentless in pressing its full throated attack on Obama and the Democrats. This is hardly a party that's sunk.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
- Created on 23 October 2013
Dr. Ben Carson's shoot from the lip, crackpot quips, digs, and insults at women, blacks, Democrats, and especially President Obama are fast becoming the stuff of legend. This time he almost outdid his past inane cracks with the zinger that the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing since slavery. Carson has parlayed his zany potshots into a plum spot as a Fox News Network commentator. This is the sorry case of a man who at one time had the respect of many for his moving, inspiring story of overcoming hardships to become a highly respected medical professional and who now has prostituted himself to grab a quick headline from a soundbite-driven, titillation media that hungrily eats up anything that someone like a Carson dishes out.
But it's also the case of a man such as Carson and his ilk that serve a calculating purpose. They get attention for the GOP. While they are zany, they also touch a deep, dark, and throbbing pulse among legions of ultra-conservatives who think that Obama and many Democrats are communists, gays are immoral, and that the health care reform law is exactly what Carson likened it to "slavery," meaning the tyrannical intrusion by big government into their lives. Carson actually went even further than the slavery dig and likened the health care law to the old communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union run by Lenin.
Mainstream GOP leaders can't utter these inanities. They must always give appearance that they are above the dirt, mud, and hate slinging fray. So they leave it to a well-paid stalking horse like Carson to do their dirty work for them. But that's only part of Carson's worth to conservatives.
He gives the illusion that the GOP is a race-neutral party that has a plethora of big name, African-Americans as their visible point men and women, and who speak with authority. The cast of shameless black panderers and hucksters that the GOP has trotted out and plopped in front of the TV cameras during the past few years has been both endless and embarrassing. But they still keep them coming.
The idiotic comparison of the Affordable Care Act to slavery was a perfect example of how the GOP craftily manages to weld race and its current signature hit issue of Obama, the health care law, into one package to play on right-wing hysteria over the law. The GOP understands the fundamental political axiom that self-interest rules politics as well, if not better, than the Democrats. Party leaders have long known that blue-collar white voters, especially male voters, can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and tax cuts.
For months before passage, they whipped up mania and borderline racism against the health care law. This was glaringly apparent in ferocity and bile spouted by the shock troops that the GOP leaders in conjunction with the Tea Party brought out to harangue, harass and bully Democratic legislators on the eve of the health care vote. For the months after passage of the act and its upholding by the Supreme Court the GOP has never relented in the drumbeat attack up on it. That includes the dozens of House votes to defund or outright kill it. And then everything it making it the prime bargaining chip in its fresh assault on government with the partial shutdown.
Carson fits neatly into this script. He's an African American with name identification and some admiration among blacks, though that's dwindling fast. We can be sure then that this won't be the last crackpot quip that we'll hear from Carson. Sadly, he'll continue to be the worst thing that happened to us since he opened his mouth.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
- Created on 21 October 2013
Zena "Chief Z" Williams signs autographs during fan appreciation day at the Washington Redskins' NFL football training camp at Redskins Park, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The politics of money and privilege collide as the Washington Redskins owner defends the use of the name as "heritage."
Cultural insensitivity is nothing new. My goddaughter who grew up attending predominantly white schools recently shared a Buzzfeed post that parodied being the only black person in class. Some of the things on the list referenced the many statements and behaviors that Blacks (and other minorities, I'm sure) endure in a majority world, including the use of degrading language in our presence, culturally inappropriate questions or comments about textures of hair or skin tones and being made to be the token. I hope to live to see the day when it's not the case, but for now, I'll keep dreaming.
Cultural insensitivity has been a topic of national conversation lately as President Obama was asked whether the Washington Redskins should change their team name. His response and the discussion over whether the name is inappropriate have been on Sunday morning news shows, newspaper headlines and, of course, sports shows since.
The debate has been one that has been going on for decades, but recently, the Oneida Nation has been putting increased pressure on the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, to change the name that they feel is offensive. The Nation received support from ten Congressional members who sent a letter in May of this year to the team ownership and the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, that said the name was offensive and should be changed. Daniel Snyder has said he will not change the name.
As a Black woman who has experienced the degradation of being called offensive names, I can only imagine what Native Americans must feel. To be berated on a one-on-one basis is trying, but to have a sports team that receives national attention use a name that brings hurt and fury is belittling and robs Native Americans of their dignity. Their history in this country is a hard one and to this day, they have not received their just due for the wrongs they've endured. They are still so marginalized that people like Daniel Snyder can actually come out and say that he's not changing the name and while there are protests outside the game, his pockets never feel the pinch.
In a recent letter issued by Snyder, he referenced the team's 81-year history as a reason that he's not changing the name. "Heritage" he said, as if the Native American heritage of centuries in this country is somehow less meaningful. His blatant disrespect and disregard for a group of people who have called this land home since before his ancestors knew of its existence is infuriating. I'm surprised that he, as a Jewish American, is not more sensitive to the type of cultural thoughtlessness that he's clinging to. I think of it from my perspective. I would be enraged if a team was calling itself the "Detroit Darkies" or "Birmingham Blackies" and had their fans dancing around in black face. There's nothing worse than telling someone that something is bothering you only to have them dismiss it. There's also nothing more condescending than telling someone you don't care about how your actions impact them. Daniel Snyder is dismissing the effects his team name has on this community and telling them he doesn't care. Maybe he needs a lesson in empathy in order to do what's right, because at this very moment, he's all the way wrong.
Janaye Ingram is the National Executive Director of the National Action Network.
- Created on 18 October 2013
(CNN) -- It was merely a dream, wasn't it?
That whole Jason Collins thing of six months ago -- never happened, right? The headline news of his becoming the first openly gay active male professional athlete in a team sport. The Sports Illustrated cover. The supportive tweets from everyone ranging from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to Jason Kidd and LeBron James. The interviews. The raves ("Game-changing!"). The altered landscape.
Remember when The Guardian newspaper called Collins' emergence significant for LGBT acceptance ... "as professional sports had long been seen as the final frontier"?
Remember when the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network presented Collins with its courage award? Remember when the veteran NBA center was being likened to Jackie Robinson?
Well, eh, forget it. Forget the whole thing.
As you read this, Collins is likely sitting somewhere inside his California home, twiddling his thumbs, watching reality TV, waiting, hoping, waiting, hoping, waiting, hoping for the groundbreaking opportunity that looks, increasingly, unlikely to occur. Put differently: For one to actually become the first openly gay active male professional athlete in a team sport, one must be an openly gay active male professional athlete playing a team sport.
And Collins ain't playing squat.
With the NBA opening in less than two weeks, it has become clear that the league's 30 teams have no interest in Collins, a 34-year-old journeyman. From a purely basketball standpoint, this is understandable: Once a valuable role player on a New Jersey Nets team that reached back to back NBA Championship series in the early 2000s, Collins is a shell of his former self.
Playing with Boston and Washington last season, he averaged but 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 38 games. He is -- to be blunt -- a slow, nonathletic player with creaky joints and no offensive repertoire of which to speak. Were this any other similarly submediocre player in any other sport, his departure would register nary a blip on the radar. He would vanish, and life would move on.
Costas: Collins is 'the perfect guy' Collins: I'm the happiest I've ever been 'We planned our lives together'
Jason Collins, however, ceased being ordinary the moment he announced he was gay.
To thousands upon thousands of Americans, he became a beacon of hope and a sign that maybe sexuality would matter not the in machismo-stuffed world of professional sports. If LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul could embrace a gay man as a teammate, what excuse would the loudmouth, homophobic blockhead at the construction site or law firm have for his close-mindedness?
Finally, things were about to change.
Only they weren't because, well, nobody called. The NBA has been repeatedly defended in its inaction with predictable attacks on Collins' game -- too slow, too marginal, too worthless. Yet could somebody (anybody?) have at least invited him to training camp -- land of myriad oafs and fringe players itching to land a job?
Hell, the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason roster included Dan Gadzuric and Eric Boateng, two men with limited skill sets and without Collins' great teammate/dogged worker resume. Hell, the Atlanta Hawks briefly employed David Lighty, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with no redeeming NBA attributes. Hell, the New York Knicks, according to NBC Sports' D.J. Foster, "have basically worked out everyone who has ever touched a basketball this offseason." Everyone save Collins.
This isn't a hard one to figure out.
As the late Branch Rickey of baseball fame repeatedly pointed out, change within the sports landscape doesn't come easily.
Just as members of the Brooklyn Dodgers were loathe to share locker space with Robinson in the summer of 1947, many NBA players (whether they admit it publicly or not) were likely not thrilled by the idea of showering alongside a gay man even if they'd been showering alongside said gay man for more than a decade.
Adding Collins to a roster -- even a preseason roster -- would likely have meant awkwardness, confusion and weirdness.
There almost inevitably would have been conservative Christian teammates asking to change in a designated private space. Special press conferences would need to be arranged.
Gay rights groups would flock to the arena -- and they'd be loud. And what of the slurs that fly across courts during practice with staggering regularity, and without much thought? What would happen the first time a Clipper or Piston or Spur uttered the word "f****t," even if it were not directed at Collins?
Could all this trouble (and it would, inevitably, be trouble) be worth it for at best a seldom-used 12th man?
Opportunities like this don't happen often, and the NBA -- arguably the most progressive of the four major American team sports -- is failing miserably.
Where is Kidd, the Nets' new coach and former Collins' teammate, with a camp invite? Where is Mark Cuban, the forward-thinking Dallas Mavericks owner, with a pen and a contract? Where are the Golden State Warriors, the team whose arena is 18 miles from the spot where Harvey Milk was murdered? Where are the Lakers, a franchise desperately in need in grit and toughness? Where are the Miami Heat, whose bench could use a bruiser of Collins' ilk?
How in the world could no one think to add Collins to a roster, if only to give his courageous first step the conclusion it deserves?
How are we letting this one slip away?